Article By: Leanne Ridgeway
The Gear Assembly interview series is especially for the music gear addicts, or simply the curious like myself.
Each article in the Gear Assembly series features a different musician answering the same questions, highlighting both their varying preference in music gear, as well as their own music that results from using that gear. Hopefully, it brings some awareness to both the artists and their gear makers. You’re reading, so we’ve got at least one more. Find new music, learn about who’s making it and what they use to create it…
GEAR ASSEMBLY Series #3:
THE AGE OF TRUTH’s Michael DiDonato
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania – the city of brotherly angst. Their native sons tend to have a “Hey, I’m From Philly” invisible chest badge, with or without realizing it. The Philly foursome of THE AGE OF TRUTH certainly doesn’t shy away from anyone, for any reason. Honestly, they’re maniacs.
Their guitarist, Mike DiDonato, is a true gent. Also, complete maniac. In all of the best of ways, though – a knightly maniac, if you will. Mike D is also a soulful, committed guitar player. He delves deep into his own world as he’s on stage, but offstage you’ll find him possessing a genuinely kind heart and enough humility that he usually forgets just how good he really is. MIKE D IS AWESOME. Period.
It’s a joy to have him be the third piece in the Gear Assembly! Rock on…
Riff Relevant /Leanne: What instrument(s) do you play?
Riff Relevant /Leanne: Give us a rundown of your current live gear set-up.
Gibson 2018 Ebony Firebird
Orange Amplifier and Cabinet
Boss Chromatic Tuner
Jim Dunlop Original Cry Baby
Electro Harmonix Classic Big Muff
Electro Harmonix Oceans 11 Pedal
Earthquaker Devices Dispatch Master Pedal
Pigtronix Class A Boost Pedal
Riff Relevant: When was the exact moment you realized you wanted to play your instrument(s)? Who was your primary influence at that moment?
I realized, in 1988, that I needed to learn how to play guitar. Guitar players like Jimi Hendrix, Jimmy Page, Jerry Garcia, Grant Green.
Mostly Hendrix, though. What a monster on guitar and to this day it’s my opinion that he is still the greatest guitar player that ever lived.
Riff Relevant: Which one of your songs best exemplifies you as a musician? Why?
Not sure. If I had a gun to my head, I’d say “Caroline“, off of our first album ‘Threshold‘ [review]- especially our live performance of that song.
I’m a blues guitar player at heart, but have always loved the heaviness. Trying to bring the two genres together during a song writing process just makes sense to me. It’s, in my opinion, the greatest hybrid of music.
Riff Relevant: Is there specific gear you prefer to use in the studio that would be different from your live set-up?
The studio is a very different animal compared to a live performance.
With The Age Of Truth, and me being the only guitar player, we try to keep our studio recordings as true to a live performance as possible. Not having a second guitar player limits what you can do, but I embrace that challenge.
That said though, it’s an album, so you have to push certain boundaries to make the album as colorful as possible, without exceeding your live performance capabilities. It’s a tough line to toe. For an album’s sake, you have to cross those boundaries, but be smart about it and don’t overdo it… less is more.
It never hurts to try different amps/ pedals/ cabs/ guitars to capture a different sound for an album.
Riff Relevant: Any type of pre-show/practice warm up rituals?
My pre-show practice is as follows:
Rehearse as much as possible leading up to the gig to prevent as many mistakes as possible.
Handle your shit! Meaning, we’re all adults in this band, we have about 35-40 minutes to play a killer set. Don’t kill the set by getting completely shitcanned before you go on. Try to keep the party, or at least some of it, for after the set.
You never know who is recording you on social media anymore. If you party too much before your set, someone is bound to record it on their phone capturing how awful you were that night.
Riff Relevant: How do you keep things interesting when able to be out on tour & playing the same set each night?
With our band, we’ve developed parts of songs that turn into a jam or a tripped out part, where we can kind of improvise and have fun with our songs. People that see us live have said, “wow that was nothing like the record, but it was awesome!”
This is because we’ve had time to develop on stage and pick parts out to elaborate on and show our musicianship. This came through playing live and being more and more comfortable playing on stage and just getting used to each other’s styles musically.
Riff Relevant: What do you think gives your playing its signature sound?
Orange Amps. Gibson guitars. And let’s be honest… Tone, in my opinion, comes within a players hands. Their touch on their instrument, how they hold/ strum/ pick, etc. Developing your tone takes a lifetime. Truth.
Riff Relevant: Any brand loyalty? Are you partial to one company over another? Any current sponsorships or your own signature gear?
Becoming an Orange Ambassador is a dream of mine, or a D’addario sponsorship would be amazing.
Riff Relevant: What is the most important piece of equipment currently in your live set-up? Why? What is it about that one?
Gotta be my Orange Amps. I just know when I plug into an Orange amp that I’ll get what I’m looking for in an amplifier.
It’s hard enough getting on stage to perform, but when you turn around and see that you’re plugged into an Orange, and you hear and feel the warmth and beautiful tone from such a product, a calm falls upon you… and you know everything is gonna be okay.
Riff Relevant: What do you enjoy doing outside of music, that you feel ultimately contributes to your musicality? (For example, a hobby that you turn to in order to stimulate your creativity.)
My work. I work in construction and just getting your hands dirty, swinging a hammer or smashing a wall with a sledge hammer helps tremendously with creating riffs and songs.
Being a blue collar worker, period, helps. Working hard, physically, every day makes picking up the guitar to write a riff or song easier. The feel and emotion you put into writing music after your body takes a beating during the daily grind, it can only shine through in a positive and inspiring way on your artistic side.
Riff Relevant: Are there any newly emerging artists or bands that are currently influencing you? If yes, how so?
The influences are hard to keep up with. There’s so many bands out there that it’s very difficult to keep up with. So many “great” bands is what I should say. I have my favorites, but I’m always trying to keep my thumb on the pulse.
Riff Relevant: If you could give one piece of advice to an up and coming musician, what would it be?
Don’t ever stop. It’s a life long learning experience on any instrument. Keep pushing and don’t give up.
If I never learned how to play guitar, I don’t know where I’d be in this life. Best choice I’ve ever made in life was to take the time to learn how to play the guitar. Truth!
Riff Relevant: How has the virus pandemic impacted your music life or career? What are some ways you’ve been doing things differently?
It’s been awful. Gigs are all canceled. We’re in the middle of recording our second album. The recording process takes long enough and with this virus, yeah, it’s really slowing things down for us. Our recording sessions have all been canceled. It’s gonna get worse before it gets better.
I’ve just been trying to stay home and stay healthy. It’s all you can do right now. Hopefully things clear up and we can get this new album out and start playing shows again. But our health is the most important thing now, so I’m just trying to stay safe.
Riff Relevant: If you could have any music gear you wanted, what would be your ideal set up?
I have it!! Hahaha. Maybe a few more cabs. I’ve sifted through all the bullshit with gear over the years. Realized at a young age… save your money and buy the gear you really want. You can’t compromise on gear. Truth is, you get what you pay for. Save your money and buy your dream gear.
Music is Life.
THE AGE OF TRUTH
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